Best Budget-Friendly: VTech DM111 Audio Baby Monitor

Let’s talk baby monitors.

Monitors with both video and audio are popular today . . . but they can be pricey. And while it is nice to see your baby, what is probably more important is to hear baby!

If the budget is tight, a good audio monitor can be just as effective as an expensive baby video monitor in keeping an eye (or rather ear) on baby.

Don’t take our word for it. That’s the advice we heard time and time again from our parent readers of our book on baby gear: a simple audio-only baby monitor works wonders.

For the best budget-friendly baby monitor with audio only, we’d recommend VTech’s DM111. We tried out several brands of monitors and looked for the best audio clarity, battery life and range. VTech topped our tests—and this simple model does the job.

Here’s what we liked:

What We Liked

• Clear audio. This monitor uses DECT 6.0 tech . . . basically, that keeps the monitor static-free. However, let us point out that ALL baby monitors can suffer from interference (microwaves, WiFi routers, cell phones, etc.). Yes, we see a small minority of complaints about “white noise” coming from this monitor. We’re not sure what causes those cases of interference.

• Sound and lights indicator. You can “see” the baby crying, if you turn down the audio (helpful at night).

• Battery life is good. We measured it at about 6 hours . . . yes, that is a far cry from the maker’s claim of 20 hours. But we suggest using the battery only sparingly. At night, it should be plugged in to be most effective.

• Affordable.

What Needs Work

• Range could be longer. VTech claims a 1000 foot range—which we suppose would be the case if you were out in a corn field. In real world testing, we’d say this monitor works well in most average-size homes . . . but more like a 150-foot range is realistic.

• No rechargeable batteries. You must use alkaline batteries (not included) . . . and you can go through quite a few if you frequently use batteries rather than the A/C power adapter.

• No intercom or other special features. Yes, more pricey monitors let you call back and forth between the parent and baby unit (intercom). And some have night lights and lullabies . . . but this one is just basically a monitor. We are happy with that, given how easy this monitor is on the wallet.

Best Monitor 2 parent Units: VTech DM221-2 Audio Baby Monitor

Two parent unit monitors are helpful—especially if you have a two-story home (one stays downstairs, the other upstairs).

After trying out several dual parent unit audio-only monitors, we think the best bet is VTech’s DM221-2. Even though it looks different compared to the DM111 unit recommended above, it has much the same specs. The big difference: a LCD screen that shows battery and signal strength.

Another key difference: rechargeable batteries. This model has them; the DM111 doesn’t (it uses alkaline batteries . . . which it can eat at an alarming rate if you frequently use it without A/C power).

What We Liked

 Belt clip lets you go hands-free.

• Rechargeable batteries.

• Decent range. The maker claims about 150 feet inside a home, which is about right. That may sound short, but it works in most average-sized homes.

• Good audio clarity.

• Backlit display shows battery life and signal strength.

• Sound light display.

• Intercom feature lets you talk back and forth between units.

What Needs Work

• Battery life nowhere near the 18 hours claimed by maker. Our real world tests showed about 5-7 hours of battery life, depending on how much you use the talk-back feature. That’s good enough for us—we always suggest running a baby monitor off A/C power as much as you can. Yes, you can use the battery feature if you need to wonder into the backyard . . . but don’t expect this unit to last an entire day on batteries.

• Longevity could be better. We wish affordable baby monitors like this could last for more than one child—or at least for a year of use. Unfortunately, most folks are lucky to get 6-9 months of use before something goes wrong (a parent unit audio goes out, etc). And don’t even think about dropping a parent unit . . . these things are not designed to take a fall and keep working.

Best Night-Light Monitor: HelloBaby HB178 Audio Baby Monitor

We have always like no frills baby monitors—lots of fancy features (like temperature displays) are frivilous.

But there is one helpful feature we would recommend: a night-light. Yes, you will be in and out of a nursery many times in an evening. And a monitor with a built-in night-light saves you from having to buy that separately.

We tried out several audio-only baby monitors with night-lights—the best of the bunch was the HelloBaby HB178. Here’s why:

What We Liked

• Night-light and lullaby feature can be triggered remotely by parent unit.

• Good audio clarity.

• Decent range. Yes, the maker claims 1000 feet line of sight. We’d say in a typical house, it would be more like 150 to 200 feet based on our testing.

• Sound/light display.

• Both units can be battery powered. That’s unique, as many baby monitors only allow for the parent unit to be battery powered. That means you could take this monitor on a road trip.

What Needs Work

• No rechargeable batteries. 

• No belt clip. That means no hands-free use, which is a bummer.

• Battery life is only average. We got about 5 hours.

• A bit pricey for a single unit monitor.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing baby gear and products for families since 1994. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward quality, ease of use and affordability.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Our work is 100% reader-supported!